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Why study mathematics?

Mathematics reveals hidden patterns that help us understand the world around us. Now much more than arithmetic and geometry, mathematics today is a diverse discipline that deals with data, measurements, and observations from science; with inference, deduction, and proof; and with mathematical models of natural phenomena, of human behavior, and social systems.

Vitruvian ManThe process of "doing" mathematics is far more than just calculation or deduction; it involves observation of patterns, testing of conjectures, and estimation of results. As a practical matter, mathematics is a science of pattern and order. Its domain is not molecules or cells, but numbers, chance, form, algorithms, and change. As a science of abstract objects, mathematics relies on logic rather than on observation as its standard of truth, yet employs observation, simulation, and even experimentation as means of discovering truth.

The special role of mathematics in education is a consequence of its universal applicability. The results of mathematics--theorems and theories--are both significant and useful; the best results are also elegant and deep. Through its theorems, mathematics offers science both a foundation of truth and a standard of certainty. In addition to theorems and theories, mathematics offers distinctive modes of thought which are both versatile and powerful, including modeling, abstraction, optimization, logical analysis, inference from data, and use of symbols.

Mathematics, as a major intellectual tradition, is a subject appreciated as much for its beauty as for its power. The enduring qualities of such abstract concepts as symmetry, proof, and change have been developed through 3,000 years of intellectual effort. Like language, religion, and music, mathematics is a universal part of human culture.

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